UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun retires

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Associate head coach George Blaney plans to stay on and help Ollie.

“No one ever thought that UConn could become a national power, one of the top-five programs in the nation,” Blaney said. “Now you look at what this school has become, the type of students that they have, the buildings, even the image of the state, so much of that is attributable to the success of his basketball program.”

Calhoun was hired by UConn in May 1986, after spending 14 years at Northeastern where he transformed the team from Division II program to a mid-major power with five appearances in the NCAA tournament.

He won an NIT title in his second season. His teams won 10 Big East regular-season championships and seven Big East Tournament titles.

“The thing that stands out to me is it’s one thing to take over a Duke or a Kentucky and build it and win games and win championships,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who went into the Hall of Fame with Calhoun in 2005. “But 26 years ago Connecticut wasn’t even thought of in the college basketball world. He’s turned them into one of the top programs in the country. I think it’s really, to me, the greatest building job that anybody’s ever done.”

In 1999, Calhoun coached the Huskies to a 34-2 record and their first NCAA championship, a 77-74 upset over Duke.

In 2004, the Huskies started and ended the season at No. 1, beating Georgia Tech in the NCAA championship game 82-73. A year later, Calhoun was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 2011, UConn finished the regular season in ninth place in the Big East before reeling off a remarkable 11-game run in the postseason, including a 53-41 victory over Butler in the national championship game.

Calhoun’s only loss in the Final Four came in 2009 to Michigan State in the national semifinals. The coach missed the Huskies’ first NCAA tournament game that season after being hospitalized for dehydration.

It was one of a number of health problems that plagued the coach in recent years.

Before fracturing his hip in August, Calhoun fought off cancer three times and missed eight games last season because of a painful spinal condition. He returned just four days after having back surgery to coach the Huskies in their regular-season finale and the postseason.

UConn finished the year 20-14, losing to Iowa State in the first-round of the NCAA tournament.

He missed 29 games at UConn, and left another 11 because of illness. He successfully battled prostate cancer in 2003 and skin cancer twice, most recently in 2008.

Calhoun also was hospitalized in 2009 after breaking several ribs during a charity bike ride and he missed seven games in the 2009-10 season for an undisclosed stress-related medical reason.

In addition to his medical leaves, Calhoun served a three-game suspension at the start of the Big East season last winter for failing to maintain an atmosphere of compliance in his program with NCAA rules.

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